Besides becoming an actor, influencer, or music entertainer, one of the biggest dream careers of most aspiring children is that of a basketball player. So many movies have been made surrounding this topic, such as Michael Jordan’s Space Jam as well as Lebron James’ rebooted 2021 version of the same name, Coach Carter starring Samuel L. Jackson, the 2002 comedy Like Mike, starring rapper/actor Bow Wow and Morris Chestnut, as well as the romantic sports drama, Love and Basketball, starring Omar Epps and the gorgeous Sanaa Lathan.
But for as much as many professional NBA players earn in their careers, there are a few who, through their entrepreneurial endeavors, have exceeded the very salaries that many would-be players covet so much. But how did they do it? Here are 10 NBA Stars who earned more from their business careers than their sports career.
10 Michael Jordan
Not only is Michael Jordan among the first few professional athletes to become a billionaire, but he has also amassed the majority of this wealth independent of the NBA. According to Sports Casting, Michael Jordan made $94 million in NBA contracts throughout his career. However, after he officially retired in 1999, he made significant entrepreneurial moves that secured a billion-dollar financial future. Forbes estimated that Jordan earned $1.7 billion over the past 40 years from sponsors such as Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Wheaties, and Chevrolet. With the backing of Nike, his Air Jordan Brand was estimated to be worth $3 billion, earning the G.O.A.T $1.3 billion for himself. MJ also bought a majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets team in 2010 for $175 million and sold 20% of that stake in 2019 for $1.5 billion. He also owns a string of Michael Jordan Steakhouse Restaurants that add to his stupendous earning potential.
9 Shaquille O’ Neal
According to Celebrity Net Worth, as of 2022, Shaquille O’ Neal has amassed a net worth of $400 million. Throughout his professional basketball career from 1992 to 2011, O’Neal has played for six different NBA teams which earned him just over $292 million. However, the money-making didn’t stop there for the 7-foot-1-inch-tall basketball legend. In fact, he transferred the same adeptness and skill from the basketball court to his business ventures, beginning with his 10 percent ownership of Five Guys Burger and Fries franchises (155 different locations). In addition, he owns 17 Auntie Anne’s pretzel shops across the U.S.
In keeping with food investments, his other endorsement deals include Fruity Pebbles cereal, Muscle Milk, Vitamin Water, and an all-natural soda called Arizona Cream Soda. Being an athlete, he has invested in 40 24-hour fitness locations as well as a few wise shares in technology. Shaq’s real estate portfolio is also impressive, which includes both residential and commercial properties.
8 Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Earvin “Magic” Johnson got the nickname ‘Magic’ because of his undeniable skill on the court. But he would also prove to have that magic touch in the business arena as well. Beginning his professional basketball career with the Lakers from 1991 to 1995, his NBA earnings are estimated at roughly $40 million, according to Hoops Hype. Way before his retirement, in 1987 Johnson used his basketball earnings to launch his investment company called Magic Johnson Enterprises which, in 2020, was estimated to be worth $1 billion. He also struck a deal with Converse with earned him $2 million annually until 1992. In 1998, he went into a 50/50 partnership with Starbucks Coffee Company which gave him the ownership of 125 stores in inner cities. In addition, Magic Johnson owns 12 movie theatres, 31 Burger King restaurants, and 13 Magic Johnson Sport health clubs in partnership with 24-Hour Fitness. All these endeavors have awarded him a net worth of $650 million.
7 LeBron James
Better known by his fans and others in the NBA League as King James, LeBron James has often been compared to Michael Jordan for both his basketball feats and his business deals. During his 19-year professional NBA career, he has made more than $385 million. While the current Lakers star player shows no signs of early retirement from the sport, he still managed to make a few sound and lucrative investments that have put his net worth at $1 billion.
Not only did he star in the 2021 animated sports comedy film, Space Jam: A New Legacy, which grossed $162.8 million at the box office, but he is also endorsed by brands such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Nike, Baskin’ Robins, and Dunkin’ Donuts to name a few. In addition, he has raked in $300 million from his production company, The Spring Hill Company, $80 million from real estate properties, $40 million in a Blaze Pizza chain investment he made in 2012, and $700 million from his stake in Dr. Dre’s Beats by Dre.
6 Kevin Durant
While Lebron James may indeed hold the crown for the highest-paid active athlete in the NBA to date, Kevin Durant is right on his tail when it comes to endorsements and business investments. At 33 years old, Durant’s net worth is $200 million. In 2019, he signed a four-year $164 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets, which works out to about $42 million annually, including an extra $40 million from his sponsors. However, off the court, Durant has made wise investments with companies such as Coinbase which now has a $10 billion valuation and an increase of 61.5x since he first invested. Afro Tech reported that in 2014, he signed a ten-year, $250 million deal with Nike and has made more than 40 investments with Thirty Five Ventures, most notably the wearable technology health and fitness tracker, WHOOP, which now has a valuation of $3.6 billion.
5 Stephen Curry
While he certainly doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight with his wife, Ayesha Curry, Stephen Curry is the one who has been ranked as the number five highest-paid athlete, according to Forbes’ 2022 List. His current NBA salary with the Golden State Warriors is a little over $48 million and, in total, has earned over $212 million. Besides this, the “Baby-Faced Assassin” has an endorsement deal with Under Armor, which he also owns an equity share in, and pays him an extra $40 million a year. His other endorsement deals are with Google, Panini, FTX, CarMax, and Callaway Golf.
When it comes to his investments, the 33-year-old started by becoming the CEO of his own company, SC30, through which he has invested in Smart Travel, an A.I.-powered workout machine called Tonal which other athletes like Serena Williams and Klay Thompson. One of his wisest investments was in the e-sports organization, TSM, which shot to a worth of $410 million in 2020.
4 Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman
This former NBA player and NBPA president, Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman, played for the LA Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Clippers before retiring in 1987. During his time in the NBA, Bridgeman’s salary for a single season was $350,000 while his entire career earnings were $4,200,000. By the time he retired, he was the owner of three Wendy’s fast-food restaurants and that number quickly turned to 263 across 20 states, including 150 Chili’s restaurants which he ran under his company, Bridgeman Foods II, Inc.
He went on to sell every restaurant he owned in 2016 and in 2018, bought the Coca-Cola bottling operations in all of Canada, according to Business Report. Today, he is the president and CEO of Heartland Coca-Cola and runs a production plant in Kansas. These calculated business investments put his net worth at a whopping $600 million today.
3 Grant Hill
The NBA Hall of Famer, Grant Hill, played professionally in the NBA from 1994 to 2013 during which time he signed contracts with five different teams and earned a total of $143 million over his 18-year tenure in the sport. However, that figure doesn’t include his endorsement deals. His endorsement deal was a seven-year $80 million deal with Fila which, in 2018, became a lifetime deal that continues to pay him over $10 million to endorse the brand.
In 2000, along with his company marketing company, Hill Ventures, he invested and developed multiple real estate projects from Florida to North Carolina as well as Atlanta. Speaking of Atlanta, Hill is also a minority stakeholder in the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks team in a group led by Tony Ressler, which is now worth $1.6 billion. The former NBA star now has a net worth of $250 million.
2 Vinnie Johnson
Here’s another example of a former NBA athlete who dominated the sport of basketball, retired, and went on to dominate again in business! Vinnie Johnson was born on September 1, 1956, in Brooklyn, New York, and played for the Seattle Supersonics, Detroit Pistons, and San Antonio Spurs from 1979 to 1992. For the stretch of time he devoted to his basketball career, he only grossed $5 million, which is nothing compared to the $400 million he is worth now.
A few years after his retirement, in 1995, Johnson started the Piston Group, an automobile supply company. His company was a massive success, quickly becoming the leading supplier of automobile parts to international companies such as General Motors and Ford Motor Company. Today, Vinnie serves as the CEO of Piston Group and oversees the intake of $3 billion annually in revenue.
1 Dave Bing
An NBA athlete reaches legendary status when he can go from earning a professional contract of $!5,000 per year to building a 61-million dollar-per-year steel business. Born in Washington, D.C., the NBA All-Star player became a pioneer in the steel industry when he established Bing Steel in 1980. Before that, he played 12 seasons for the Detroit Pistons, Washington Bullets, and the Boston Celtics from 1966 to 1978, securing him a place in the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996 and was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. Aside from his business endeavors, Bing has also taken up the office of Mayor in Detroit and has done quite a bit to give back to the community. Today, his net worth sits at a modest $5 million.
READ NEXT: The MJ Way: 10 Ways Michael Jordan Earns And Spends His Billions
A Peek Inside NBA Star Steph Curry’s Watch Collection